The University of Salford part of £1 million project to develop new heat pump technology

Jun 6, 2024 | Uncategorized

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Image: Energy House Labs

Experts at the University of Salford are part of a major project looking at how to develop heat pump technology to make it more efficient at heating our homes.

The Energy House Labs team at Salford will collaborate with Bristol-based start-up, Nusku, which has raised almost £1 million of investment, including a grant of more than £700,000 from the Government.

Nusku was formed in 2022 to try to solve the problem of lack of take-up of heat pumps despite them being a much greener way of heating homes. Two years later, Nusku has six employees, a workshop and a £727,000 grant from the Department for Energy Security & Net Zero (DESNZ). This follows £245,000 of pre-seed funding from key people within the energy sector.

Later this year Nusku will test their innovative product at the University of Salford’s Energy House 1 test facility, a specially built Victorian terraced house in a climate-controlled chamber. The controlled environment will allow testing to be done in months that may otherwise take years.

Dave Farmer will lead the research at Salford. He said:Our unique facility allows us to measure the performance of heating systems at whole-house level under controlled conditions.

“In the environmental chamber we can replicate the outside temperature experienced in any part of the UK at any time of the heating season. We can also simulate occupancy energy behaviour such as differing heating patterns and hot water use. This means that we will be able to test Nusku’s system across a range of weather conditions and occupancy behaviours in less time and more accurately than is possible in the field. Testing at Energy House 1 could significantly reduce the time to market for Nusku’s system.

“Take up of heat pumps has been disappointing but new technology should make them a more viable option for heating our homes and enable the country to move faster down the road to Net Zero.”

Russell Murchie, who worked as a fluid dynamics engineer at Dyson for 17 years, during which he led its product performance team, founded Nusku with Matthew Whitefoot and Andy Mckay who have experience within the renewable energy, finance and start-up spheres. The company has office space at Future Space – the University of the West of England’s innovation centre.

Russell said:It’s been a whirlwind few years building a company from scratch and I’m still pinching myself at what’s been achieved. While we had confidence in our idea, if you’d told me two years ago that we’d raise almost £1 million to develop it, I’d have struggled to believe you!

“It’s testament to the hard work of the team, who have designed a truly innovative heating system which we feel confident will have mass appeal once it’s on the market. The fact the Government and leading figures from within the industry are backing us is a real vote of confidence.”

The Government grant, awarded via their Heat Pump Ready Programme and part of the £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio, will allow Nusku to develop and test its innovative heating system over the next year.

The ambition is for it to be cheaper and quicker to install – taking a few days rather than over a week – as well as more attractive, than existing heat pumps. This will specifically appeal to homeowners whose existing gas boiler has broken and who want a hassle-free and environmentally friendly replacement.

Heat pumps are the same technology as fridges and work by moving heat from outside air to indoor radiators. As they are powered by electricity, they are considered the most efficient way for the UK to shift to low-carbon heating and away from the gas-fired boilers that heat the majority of the UK’s 28 million homes.

To help hit net zero targets, the Government wants to grow the market in heat pumps to 600,000 installations per year by 2028 and is offering grants of £7,500 to property owners through the Boiler Upgrade Scheme.

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